Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My last 2007 vacation story: tasting the wines of Porquerolles Island

This will be my last vacation story but I still have to tell you about the wonderful wines that I have tasted this summer on Porquerolles Island. Porquerolles is the largest of the Iles d'Or, a group of three beautiful islands off the coast of Provence. We made several trips to the island, and of course tasted some of the local wines, as our vacation rental was conveniently located within walking distance to the ferry service.

Porquerolles Island

Although in the early twentieth century, Porquerolles had one of the largest vineyards of the region — 200 hectares of vines — most of the island is now a protected national park and only three small wineries are producing wine today, all from the Côtes de Provence appellation.

The vineyard of Domaine de l'Île

The Domaine de l'Île is the island's oldest wine estate. The owner is the grandson of François-Joseph Fournier, a wealthy Belgium engineer who bought the Porquerolles Island in 1910 after making a fortune discovering a gold and silver mine in Mexico. The vineyard is completely organic and made of Grenache and Syrah for the red wine, Grenache, Cincault, Tibouren, and Mourvèdre for the rosé, and Rolle for the white. I was able to taste the red version of the Domaine de l'Île at a local restaurant. The wine had a pleasant Côtes du Rhône character, fleshy, fruity, and peppery, although I didn't find it specially distinctive.

The tasting room of Domaine de l'Île

The second oldest estate is the Domaine de la Courtade. Founded in 1983, it has now 30 hectares in production. The soil is made of flaky schist which has a great capacity to store water and allows the vines to develop a deep root system. The main planted red variety is Mourvèdre which thrives here thanks to 3000 hours of sunshine a year (the highest in France) and the constant high humidity coming from the sea. Rolle, also known as Vermentino in Italy, is the main white variety. There is also an olive grove of 800 trees on the estate.

The Domaine de la Courtade

The domain uses organic practices. Yields are low, grapes are hand-picked. After fermentation, the wine is kept in casks for 9 months for the white wines, 12 to 18 months for the reds.

The wines at the Domaine de la Courtade

Here are the wines that we tasted at the winery:

• 2004 Côtes de Provence La Courtade Blanc: 100% Rolle. The wine can be cellared for approximately ten years. Light golden color, fragrant nose of white flower, creamy palate with a nice acidity, nutty flavors on the finish. A complex white.

• 2006 Côtes de Provence La Courtade Rosé: 70% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache, 10% Tibouren. Pale salmon color, floral nose with citrus and berry aromas, nicely textured and refreshing palate, rather classy for a rosé.

• 2001 Côtes de Provence La Courtade Rouge: 97% Mourvèdre, 3% Syrah. The wine can be cellared for up to 15 to 20 years depending on the vintage. Deep red color, nose of red fruit, licorice and dry garrigue herbs, powerful, tannic palate, with a long finish. Really good but needs time.

Founded in the late 1980's, the Domaine Perzinsky is the youngest of the island estate. The planted varieties are Rolle and Sémillon for the white, Grenache for the rosé, and Mourvèdre and Syrah for the red. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to taste the wines of the domaine. The truth is that I spent too much time at the beach and the tasting room was closed when I arrived at the winery!

Related posts:
•  7/7/7 family reunion at the château de la Gagnotterie
•  A visit at the Domaine des Huards in Cour-Cheverny
•  The best table wine at less than 1 Euro
•  And a Bordeaux at less than 5 Euros

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de la Tour Private Reserve Cabernet Vertical Tasting by James Strohecker

My friend James Strohecker was very lucky to attend a vertical tasting of Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de la Tour Private Reserve Cabernets. The event was organized by wine collector George Kautzman on September 6, 2007. Kindly enough, James is now sharing his tasting notes with us:


The Beaulieu Vineyards Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernet tasting was a special, once-in-a-lifetime chance to sample some of the great Napa Cabernets from some great years: 1968-1976. Over the years, noted collector, George Kautzman, painstakingly acquired the Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernets for the sole purpose of one day hosting vertical tastings of the wines.

The Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernets were all 750 ml with generally high shoulder fills, and were pre-decanted between 5:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. prior to the 7:45 p.m. tasting. The wines were then blind tasted by the 11-person group, after they'd been bagged and offered to the tasters in flights of three, beginning with the youngest three wines, to the oldest three wines.

All of the Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernets were purchased around the release date (generally five years after the vintage year) and original purchase price is provided as available (some bottles actually had the price tags still on them).

With regard to the (famous) 1968 vintage, the wine we tasted came from the last bottle of the second case of wine that George Kautzman had ever bought (his first case being a case of the Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernet 1967 vintage). I think most of us expected this wine to knock us out of our seats and/or blow all the other vintages out of the water. The truth is, as you can read below, it didn't stand out as the highest-rated Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernet of the evening.

In all, however, the majority of the wines from this era were still packed with Napa Cabernet clout; they opened up, and in some cases were remarkably edgy — but never flabby. This was simply a tremendous tasting, offered by a stellar host and collector, Mr. Kautzman.

General Notes

First flight: Great start; the 1976 vintage clearly stood out. These wines were an example of the fine Napa Cabernets that were produced by famed winemaker, Tom Selfridge.

Second flight: Only after we'd sampled the second flight, did George Kautzman read from the "White Book of California Wines", the bible on wine during that era. The 1972 Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernet received a score of 11 out of 20. "The harvest was in rain and mud, with people gathering grape clusters in ankle-deep water ..." The 1972 Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernet received a score of 16 out of 20.

Third flight: the best of the evening The surprise was that the 1968 Cab didn't stand out as the knock-down favorite. Feedback was varied. However, the 1969 vintage was vivid and solid; an unrecognized year with a tremendous output (from Beaulieu). Apparently, according to George Kautzman, his is not the first time that this Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernet vintage has shown so well. It's been consistently great in tastings over the years.

WineTasting Notes
Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine NVClean, dry, refreshing — with a perky finish on the palate. Azalea blossoms and rice nose. Opened up a bit — with more flowers and a finer finish.
Grgich Hills 1978 Napa Valley ChardonnayNice, with residual fruit and pear blossom nose. Good color, with a polished finish.
Kenwood 1979 Deltane Ranch Sonoma Valley ChardonnayVery apple cider nose with a light, caramel finish. Color had changed to a cream soda look; nutty and Sauternes-like flavors on the palate.
Georges De La Tour Private Reserve Cabernets(in order of flight tasting)
1974 VintageFull nose; completed; Man, this is polished; pushing to perfection; "medicinal nose." 4 votes for best. ($16.99 original price)
1975 VintageLatent palate finish; "edgy and unbalanced," a little barnyard with some chocolate, less finished or polished. A second (delayed) tasting of this brought this reaction from me: "A lot of character." ($12.95 original price)
1976 VintageThis really sings; younger, with more bounce; Ummmm!; nice, nice finish. "Fresh fruit, nice and balanced." ($16.99 original price)
1971 VintageWow, Surprising finish; "Only 1/3 the menthol as the 1973."
1972 VintagePolished; full; driven. Berry, with a bouncy finish and a smooth nose. Some choco-berry hanging in the palate.
1973 VintageRich; classic; slight menthol nose.
1968 VintageChocolate and Napa soil; tobacco and spice. "Trunk of the car wine!" Very firm and diverse; food friendly. Leftover "muscle memory" from a great year. But it's the right time to consume this wine — it's not going to get any better.
1969 VintagePlush. Awesome. Complete. Holding steady & expanding into berry land. Surprisingly excellent.
1970 VintageVery, very good; this is an epitome of the Cabernet; cigar box nose; fruit intact; a lot of open-field room to move. The favorite of the tasters for the evening

James Strohecker

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

WBW #37: Hello Teroldego!

I am afraid I missed two Wine Blogging Wednesday events during the summer. Nevertheless, I am back this month for this 37th edition hosted by Tyler better known as Dr Vino. This month Tyler has asked us to say goodbye to Chardonnay and venture off the beaten path: go native!

So here we are, off the beaten path, with a bottle of Teroldigo Rotaliano. Have you ever heard of Teroldego Rotaliano? As far as I am concerned, I don't think I ever tasted such a wine before so I was quite happy to find this bottle at my local wine store last week. Teroldego is a rare Italian red variety planted almost exclusively in Northern Trentino, in a valley called Campo Rotaliano, and its sole appellation of origin is Teroldigo Rotaliano.

Campo Rotaliano has been famous for growing grapes for centuries. It is a small glacial valley around the confluence of the Adige and Noce rivers and protected by mountains on all sides. The Dolomite Mountains bring cool air into the valley in summer and protect the vineyards against the cold in winter. The soil is mostly gravel, silt, and various alluvial deposits.

Campo Rotaliano

Teroldego is a cool-climate vine that is hardy, vigorous and potentially prolific. The fruit is not very tannic but high in color, aroma, acidity, and potential alcohol. If yield is restricted, Teroldego can produce an ageworthy wine of intense flavor. It has recently been discovered that Teroldego and the French grape variety Dureza, one of the parents of Syrah, were sibblings.

Some suggest that the name Teroldego is derived from the German term Tiroler Gold (gold of the Tirol). Most likely, Teroldego takes its name from the word tirelle, a system of wire harnesses to train the vine.

“The riches of this grape
are a tiny bit of earth
and gravel, pebbles,
and stones”

says Elisabetta Foradori, owner of the Azienda Agricola Elisabetta Foradori and maybe Italy's finest producer of wines made from Teroldego. Her 2003 Foradori Teroldego Rotaliano has a dark red color and an assertive nose of black fruit and violet aromas and some gamey notes. On the palate, the wine is absolutely delicious, rich, complex and elegant with a lingering mineral finish, which reminds me of a softer version of a Bordeaux.

What a discovery! I love being off the beaten track, thanks Tyler!

Previous WBW posts:
•  WBW #34: 2002 Stella Maris Red Columbia Valley
•  WBW #33: the 2004 Clot de L'Oum Compagnie des Papillons, a superb value wine from the Midi
•  WBW #32: Reserve or not Reserve?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Guess the wines

Before Summer break, we had a special tasting event for our wine tasting club. This time, each wine had been transfered into a non related bottle to be tasted blind, and the guests were asked to identify the varietal and region of the wine. Everybody had fun, tried hard, and generally did well with several good answers. Nevertheless, our friend Jean, who was also hosting the event, was the best. He got half of the answers right and won the winning prize, a bottle of Champagne.

We tasted 7 different single varietal wines from different regions of the world including Australia, California, Chile, France, Italy, and Spain. Here they are:

• 2005 Fortitude Luvisi Semillon. Fortitude is a project developed by the Etude Winery winemaking team to focus on endangered varietals such as Semillon, Valdiguie, Charbono, and Carignane. This is a 100% Semillon from 25-year old vines grown in the Luvisi family vineyard near Calistoga in Napa Valley. Showing aromas of citrus and honey, the wine was medium-bodied and refreshing, and many tasters identified it as a New World Sauvignon Blanc.

• 2005 Step Road Chardonnay. The wine is produced from a high altitude vineyard in the Adelaide Hills region, in South Australia. It is a cool-climate region with high winter rainfall and cool summers, ideal for Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The wine had a golden color, tropical fruit and citrus aromas and a good depth on the palate. Many tasters rightly identified the wine as a New World Chardonnay, the most cited regions being South Africa, California, and Australia.

• 2005 Valle Isarco Sudtiroler Pinot Nero: This is a Pinot Noir from the cool Alto Adige region in northern Italy also known as Sudtirol. The region is bordered by Austria to the north and by Switzerland to the north-west. The wine had a light garnet color, a fruity nose, with a good amount of acidity and slightly tannic on the palate. This light-bodied Pinot Noir was not easy to identify and many tasters thought they had recognized a Gamay.

• 2005 Fleurie Clos de la Roilette : the Clos de la Roilette is a nine hectare east-facing vineyard in Beaujolais' Fleurie appellation, bordering the famed Moulin-à-Vent appellation. The soil is clay and manganese, the vines are on average 25-33 years old. The wine is 100% Gamay with a deep purple color, peony and red berry aromas, a medium-bodied palate with a well-balanced acidity. This one was rightly identified as a French Gamay by many tasters.

• 2005 El Quintanal Vendimia Seleccionada: the wine is a 100% Tempranillo from Spain's Ribera del Duero region. In the Ribera del Duero appellation, vineyards lie on either side of the Douro river, on a high-altitude plateau with cool nights and low rainfall, ideal growing conditions for the Spanish native grape Tempranillo. With a deep color, a black fruit nose, a ripe and spicy palate, this was tricky wine identified as a California Zinfandel by many tasters.

• 2004 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve: Viña Los Vascos, located in Chile's Colchagua Valley, is owned by the Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Lafite. Vascos means Basques and is a reference to the estate's Basque origin. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon with a dark red/purple color, black fruit and licorice aromas and a well balanced and elegant palate. Many tasters rightly identified the wine to be a New World Cabernet Sauvignon. The most cited regions were California, Argentina, and Chile.

• 2005 Ridge Zinfandel Ponzo Vineyard: Ponzo Vineyard is a cool-climate vineyard located in California's Russian River Valley. It has small amounts of Carignane and Petite Sirah interplanted with Zinfandel in the oldest blocks. The wine had a deep color, a blackberry and cherry nose, and a fleshy, spicy texture on the palate. Many guessed rightly recognized a California wine, a few identified a Zinfandel, others thought that it was a Syrah.

Our next tasting event will feature summer wines from around the Mediterranean Sea so let's stay in touch.

Previous wine club tastings:
•  Tasting the wines of Australia and New Zealand
•  Tasting the wines of Piedmont
•  Champagne Tasting

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